The Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust has been working toward the estuary being recognised as a wetland of international importance and in consequence be able to have it added to the Ramsar list. The Trust considers this an achievable and worthy goal that requires firstly that adequate improvements are made to “cleaning up” the Estuary. Alex presents his view on the merit of having this listing for the Estuary:
Instead of it just us [the Trust] or me saying it’s a nice place to go sailing. Its, its like it becomes; yes it’s a nice place to go sailing but it also has these significant values from an environmental point of view, from um, the organisms that live there, and so on, it, its important. It’s not just another piece of swamp; it’s actually an important piece of swamp. Um and, I think its, um, it’s all part of changing, changing the paradigm that, that um. . .I think the bible says something about to man is, is, has the divine right to go forth and multiply. . . its like, addressing that slightly differently. Yes, but there are other people in the world too, or other things in the world and we have to figure out how to live with them and recognise their importance. And, and to me, so to me personally, the RAMSAR, um, designation is, is part and partial of that, recognising that there other things in the world that are as important as we are.
The Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust recognises the importance of consultation local iwi in their planning and actions concerning the restoration and preservation of the cities wetland and waterways. Alex outlines what level of importance the Trust can rightfully place on working with mana whenua at this time:
I’m, I’m going to say very important, but you have to be aware or understand that we have done some terrible things to the Estuary from a Maori perspective and um, the Maoris moved out a long time ago and they’ve suffered the indignity for a very long time of having their Estuary treated as a sewer. Now, asking Maoris to come back and help fix it is counter intuitive. That isn’t going to happen in a hundred years. We have to fix up what we stuffed up and so the attitude I’ve adopted is, I am saying that I’m going to be the um, oh what’s the word . . . the facsimile Maori, um because I think I understand their attitudes an aspirations a little, enough, to understand what it is they don’t like and do something about correcting those. So one of my personal goals is to make it so, so, the people who were displaced can feel like they can return. And we’ve come a long way in, in . . . .getting towards that goal.